October marks the beginning of all things pink, as Breast Cancer Awareness month kicks off, but that doesn’t mean we should forget about Prostate Cancer and the awareness we which we raised for it in September. Not only do we want to keep raising awareness throughout the year, but always strive to achieve better standards of care and provide patients with better diagnostic tools. 220,900 new cases of prostate cancer were diagnosed last year and this number is estimated to reach 450,000 by 2015. In order to diagnose these new cases, there are roughly 1.5 million prostate biopsies per year with about 25 million men who have had at least one negative biopsy. How can we improve diagnosis and treat all these patients? Ideally, through a non-invasive, low cost, and effective therapy. With a new, a three-pronged blood test, this improved standard of care may already be here.
Read more about the breast and prostate cancer similarities here: Prostate and Breast Cancers are more similar than you’d think
The Prostate Health Index (phi) test, now available nationwide (although New York state is still currently awaiting licensing for this test) through Innovative Diagnostics Laboratory, could fill the diagnostic gap clinicians currently have when screening for prostate cancer. By using three different prostate specific markers, the test three times more specific for prostate cancer than the current PSA test. Over the last several years, there has been much debate in the realm of over-screening, over-diagnosis, and the inaccuracy of diagnostic tools in prostate cancer. This test greatly improves this dilemma by giving clinicians more accurate information on what an elevated PSA level might mean and the probability of finding cancer on biopsy. This improvement will allow a decrease in the number of prostate biopsies that are negative for cancer and done unnecessarily each year.
Read about Joe Torre’s fight against prostate cancer: Joe Torre-Led Campaign Informs Men about Prostate Cancer Treatment Options
What is wrong with our current standard of testing? Simply, the PSA (prostate specific antigen) is not specific to prostate cancer. Elevations can be seen with any prostatic disease including prostatitis, BPH, and prostate cancer. Below are a few other factors which will also affect PSA levels:
- Prostate Biopsy or prostate massage: either will increase PSA levels temporarily
- Race: African-Americans have higher baseline PSA levels than whites
- Prostate volume: Increase in PSA level of 4% for every ml of prostate volume
- Age: Older men have higher baseline PSA
- 5-alpha reductase inhibitors (Finasteride and Dutasteride): This class of drugs is used in treating BPH and male pattern baldness. Will decrease PSA by 50% after 6 months of therapy
As you can see, physicians and patients alike are faced with challenges with the current standard for prostate cancer diagnosis, which is based on the fact that men with higher levels of the PSA protein are more likely to have prostate cancer. This lack of specificity can lead to false‐positives for cancer and ultimately unnecessary biopsies. The phi test promises to better distinguish prostate cancer from non-cancer disorders. This is done by using a process that evaluates three different PSA markers (PSA, freePSA and p2PSA). This new test will more reliably determine the likelihood of cancer in patients with elevated PSA levels.
According to Innovative Diagnostics, results from the phi are meant to determine probability of cancer in men over 50 with a total PSA results between 4 and 10 ng/mL and negative digital rectal examination (DRE) findings. We hope that the accuracy of this test will decrease the need for many men who test positive for elevated PSA levels to have to get a biopsy in order to get a dependable diagnosis.
For more information about prostate cancer and diagnostic tools you can call your urologist or visit www.Prostatecancer911.com.